Relationship Accountability

Ghosting, icing, simmering and other names for bastardry

Past generations did not have so many names for shitful behaviour. Maybe ghosting existed, but without smartphones and the expectations around keeping in touch 24/7, it was more of a slow fade.

These days we have a veritable tsunami of names of how to behave badly when it comes to our interpersonal, ‘romantic’ relationships. This is my shorthand way of saying relationships that involve ‘more than friendship’, although friends can choose the slow fade as well, but it’s not as pervasive.

In my Glossary, I have a useful collection of terms in case you want to brush up on your online dating lingo. Of course, these behaviours are not limited to dating that originated from an online dating source (eg most modern dating), but they are extremely common behaviours where there aren’t other connections like mutual friendships, community, work or family to help keep people accountable.

This post was inspired by one from Confessions of a Reformed Cad, which reminded me that modern dating behaviours need to come with a users’ manual and a regular, no-kid-gloves reminder of what they mean. Stories that people tell about their dating experiences are littered with these unethical and abusive behaviours.

Some of the names for these modern-day behaviours, in addition to the ones I’ve already mentioned, are benching, bread-crumbing, catch and release, monkeying, layby, and zombie-ing.

At their heart, each of these behaviours is a form of emotional cowardice. Some might call it a dislike of hurting someone else or being the bearer of bad news, but the other – less palatable side – is a lack of empathy or consideration for someone else’s feelings or lived experience. Some people just don’t care about the effects of their behaviour. They can justify it as ‘being too busy’, ‘not really being into them’, or it being ‘all too hard’.

As Esther Perel says, “In this relationship culture, expectations and trust are in constant question. The state of stable ambiguity inevitably creates an atmosphere where at least one person feels lingering uncertainty, and neither person feels truly appreciated or nurtured. We do this at the expense of our emotional health, and the emotional health of others.”

If you consider the row in the table that gives examples of typical text messages according to relationship accountability I’m certain that you’ll have experienced all of these if you’re seriously giving online dating a go. Just reading those examples brings back uncomfortable memories of when this has been done to me, not because I was necessarily emotionally invested in the person, but because it’s game playing and dishonest. It leaves you ‘not really knowing’ where you stand; it sucks your confidence and if, like me, you’re a generous person who believes in giving people the benefit of the doubt, it leaves you feeling tricked or abused.

More than once I’ve walked away from ‘textationships’  that repeat patterns of building and then dashing hopes  – plans for meeting, plans for sex, plans for dating … plans that involve actual commitment to a time and place. Making a decision and sticking to it seems to be a rare combination sometimes!

Cad says, “I’ve come to realize nearly everything that goes wrong in a relationship can be addressed simply with vulnerability and a change in the angle of approach. I firmly believe now, that if I had better skills when I was younger, I would still have a loving marriage with my ex-wife.”

Wise words indeed from someone who is not afraid to ‘do the work’ and take a good, hard look at their own behaviour and culpability – something so many of us are afraid to do.

Esther Perel believes that ghosting and behaviours of the same ilk are “manifestations of the decline of empathy in our society — the promoting of one’s selfishness, without regard for the consequences of others. There is a person on the other end of our text messages (or lack thereof), and the ability to communicate virtually doesn’t give us the right to treat others poorly.”

Wherever you may sit on the spectrum of relationship accountability, acting passively (or passive-aggressively) and hoping someone will ‘get the hint’ is not a responsible or ethical choice. It’s not easy sometimes, and I know I haven’t always been perfect in the past, but it’s the right thing to do. By recognising others as worthy of the same honesty and compassion that we ourselves seek, we are acting true to our own moral frameworks as well as ‘creating positive vibes’ in the world around us. If you want to read any of my past stories about ghosting, these are a good place to start.

Whatever your relationship status...

Expectations in online dating and the risks of addiction

Another online dating adventure – Ian the octopus

Digital landmines – people don’t treat people like humans anymore

What should I do when the guy I like ghosts on me?

Solstice or festive greetings to you all!

As Good As It Gets – the man I love

It’s no secret that I’ve fallen for a beautiful man who has continued to show me the kind of love I didn’t believe existed – or if I acknowledged it, that kind of love was for other, more fortunate souls.

Before him, I was stuck in the spirit-depleting online dating world meeting liars, cheats, emotionally vacant men, or men who were afraid of commitment, or simply at different life stages, mismatched with my own.

He’s shown me the kind of love most people dream of in their innermost selves where they long to be accepted for who they are, with no veneer or front worth hiding behind, no pretension of being someone you’re not. The kind of love where declarations are backed up by actions and deeds that speak louder than words.

The kind of earthly, rooted love that carries on soft, downy wings heavenly feelings of connection and belonging and touch. No bullshit, no lies. Just honesty, vulnerability and… fabulous sex!

red rose close up

Yes, it’s time to add a spark of light because this post I’m sharing today is also dark.

A close call with death is about as dark as it gets for a parent, or even for a partner, lover or friend. But especially for a mother with a precious link to a beloved child who almost didn’t make it.

I’ve spent the past week recovering, building new bridges and caring for my child after we both spent a week in my state’s major hospital. He’s extremely lucky to be alive, and I am doubly blessed (what a trigger for Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Light) to have him present in my life, and to have this infinitely valuable second chance to help him recover and go on to lead the life that stretches before him.

But that is his story and today I want to focus on my story.

This is the tale of how my relationship with a man I met on a dating site (Plenty of Fish) has blossomed into something solid and true.

Regular readers will be familiar with my recent journey – meeting him five months ago, when my world changed on the head of a pin. The ready acceptance we both felt that it was the real deal. The fall into divine lust of the kind where you just can’t enough of the feel, the touch, the smell of your beloved. The reveling in skin on skin and the swirling dance of tongues. The glorious touch of his lips on my mouth, and almost every other part of my body.

What followed and grew day by day were the feelings of deep, abiding love for each other, as never before and in a way that heightened our certainty that it was somehow right.

I’ve also shared the minute hairline cracks that appeared where I realised he is, indeed, human. He has flaws, stressors and imperfections. He makes mistakes just like the rest of us. He’s no saint, but he’s the closest I’ve ever been to one.

This is the kind of man I love – a man who put my needs before his own. When he heard what had happened with my son, he moved hell and high water to be by my side within a couple of hours, which was no easy feat in his busy life. It involved complex arrangements by phone calls and a few hours of travel, plus sorting it with his work to take carer’s leave. All so he could give me the kind of support I didn’t even know I needed.

This is the kind of man I love – a man who stayed by my side in the hospital when I was weeping, bedraggled and tear-stained, sitting by my son’s bed waiting for him to regain consciousness. A man who brought me sustenance and held my hand, whose presence next to me spoke louder than any words. Without question, he stayed overnight with me so I wouldn’t have to face this alone. Unlike my son’s father, my beloved was physically and emotionally present, unless it was to run errands across the miles to fetch things we needed and resolve all those awkward and complex needs that arise from leaving your home, by ambulance, in a panic. He walked my dog and fed my other pets. He brought me items to make my stay more comfortable. He held me in the night.

This is the kind of man I love – a man who doesn’t disappear when the going gets tough. He stays with me, keeping in constant touch when we aren’t physically together, but without smothering me. There are no games, no silences, no absences, no lateness or missed plans. He is as reliable as the sunrise and just as beautiful. He listens with full attention and consideration to my fears, my news, my anxieties as well as my hopes and ideas. He reassures me that he’s there for me and he worries on my behalf. He is one hundred per cent fully invested in me and our life together.

This is the kind of man I love – he treats me like a goddess, as the most precious person on the planet, his divine love, but he doesn’t dehumanise me or put me on a pedestal. I don’t have to be perfect in mind, body or soul for him to love and adore me. He strokes me, holds me, cuddles me, kisses me with reverence and with desire. His touches alight my blood, set astir my lust, his fingers on my nipples send me into silent (or noisy) paroxysms of arousal. His tongue in my mouth stirs a long-dormant primal sexuality. His desire to please me surprises me every time he patiently works my body bringing me to climax after climax, to heights never before experienced. He is a man who’s not satisfied until I am satisfied, and who will never give up until I erupt into exhausted giggles when my body really can’t take any more unadulterated pleasure. He’s the kind of man who offers his solidity and height to help me feel safe and protected, something I’ve never had the luxury of feeling in my many decades of adult life.

He’s a genuine strong man, and that’s not to say I won’t allow him to have moments of weakness, or vulnerability or fear. I want a human being, not a superman model. I want a man who’s not afraid to be himself, no disguises and no lies.

He doesn’t have to be perfect – he only needs to be genuine, and a real adult, not a man-child or a Peter Pan or any other variation of unavailable or irresponsible.

I didn’t know what I wanted until I met my beloved, and now that we have connected, I realise how much my life has opened up. I feel blessed, every day, to have the love of this man. I am stronger, happier, better.

And this is as good as it gets.